Satcher to Play Key Role in Minority Health Issues

By Dervarics, Charles | Black Issues in Higher Education, March 5, 1998 | Go to article overview

Satcher to Play Key Role in Minority Health Issues


Dervarics, Charles, Black Issues in Higher Education


David Satcher's confirmation as U.S. Surgeon General will give the former Meharry Medical College president a leading role in a new Clinton administration effort to improve health care for people of color.

Satcher, Meharry's president from 1982 to 1993, won Senate confirmation February 10 and was installed in the post at a White House ceremony shortly afterward. He won confirmation by a 63-35 vote after moderate Republicans joined Democrats in defeating a filibuster from conservatives.

One of Satcher's first priorities is to help lead a new presidential initiative on minority health. President Bill Clinton used his national radio address on February 21 to announce the new, $400 million program designed to eliminate health disparities between Whites and minorities.

The president said the plan would help address some troubling trends, including data showing that prostate cancer affects twice as many Blacks as Whites. Diabetes also is three times more prevalent among American Indians than among Whites, said Clinton, who called such disparities "unacceptable."

Funds for the $40-million plan would flow over a five-year period, not counting expected contributions from the private sector. Major philanthropic organizations would kick off the effort with a national conference on minority health this spring, according to the White House.

As the nation's top physician, Satcher would help direct this effort, officials said. The Surgeon General most recently served as director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before his confirmation.

The new initiative also would provide a new focus on minority health at a time when similar federal programs may have to face cuts. For instance, the federal government's Office on Minority Health (OMH) would get less money next year under the President's new budget request.

Headquartered at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), OMH would receive $23 million next year, $6 million less than current funding. The office seeks to improve health services, combat diseases, and conduct research on issues affecting minority groups.

HHS, however, said the reduction would not affect ongoing research and outreach projects, some of which involve Black colleges. …

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